Roses in hand, they marched single file. Eighteen of this year’s 113 Southeast Alaska GED graduates marched down the center isle of the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall with their heads held high with pride. They’d made it.
“You’ve all come tonight to say ‘you’ve done a great job. Well done. You’re on your way. You’ve set your path. The future’s ahead of you,’” said Julie Staley, associate director of SERRC — Alaska’s Educational Resource Center.
The graduation was put on Friday night by The Learning Connection and also honored English as a Second Language and Citizenship students.
After acknowledging the many who made the evening possible, including educators, volunteers and staff members, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Alaska State Writer Laureate, sauntered up to the podium to present her commencement speech.
“You’re sitting there in your black hat — it’s just great,” said Dauenhauer. “Now what?”
Dauenhauer spoke about her years growing up and the education she received after getting her GED, encouraging the graduates before her to pursue higher education and to value the experiences they may have throughout their lives.
“[My teachers] encouraged me and they encouraged encouragement, and that’s what I want to do for you guys. Go for whatever you want,” she said. “Pursue your dreams. If you don’t have the skills to do it. Get them. And lots of luck to all of you.”
Peeking over the podium, Dauenhauer read her poem “Salmon Egg Puller - $2.15 an Hour” and two others, weaving the story of her life with the bookends of her childhood and granddaughters.
Sitting behind Dauenhauer was Brenda Chapman who approached the podium to accept the GED Hall of Fame recognition. She was innocuous until she punctuated her acceptance speech with the acknowledgement of her daughter Salina Thomas, dressed in cap and gown, a GED recipient sitting in the first row.
When Chapman took her seat, Jocelyn Ihnat, the English language student speaker, applauded her hard work to earn her citizenship.
“It is exciting to be back in school to accomplish my goals,” she said. “Thanks to The Learning Connection, I got my citizenship. … Now I want my GED so I can get a good job.”
Eager to get on stage, the GED Voice of the Students speakers Salina Thomas and Daniel Williams, addressed the audience.
“I remember when I made my ultimate goal and that was to make my mom and dad cry.” said Williams. “They once told me to treat people how I treat myself and if I worked for the world that it would work for me as well. I’m proud to be part of the Williams.”
In closing, Lyle James and The Wooshi-ji-een Dance Group preformed a celebratory dance.
After the diplomas were handed out, the graduates stood together off stage left. They moved their tassels from one side to the other, like hands wicking away hard earned beads of sweat.
• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.